INCHEON, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korean left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun, slated to pitch in the Asiad baseball final if the host country reaches there, said he will relish the big game pressure.
"It's an honor," said Kim on Thursday after the national team manager, Ryu Joong-il, assigned him to the key role. "Every pitcher wants to take the mound in the most important game."
South Korea, the reigning Asiad baseball champ, is favored to repeat its glory on home soil, with the western port city of Incheon hosting the competition. It's in Group B with Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which is considered the biggest threat to South Korea's gold medal aspirations.
Kim, the 2008 MVP in the top domestic league Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), will first start in the opener against the underdog Thailand on Monday. Should South Korea make it to the gold medal game, Kim will have had five days off.
South Korean pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun (Yonhap)
Though he's been tasked with major responsibilities, Kim, a member of the SK Wyverns in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), said he is simply "one of the national team players."
"I am not really a special player," he said. "Now that I've been asked to start such an important game, I will do my absolute best. I am ready, physically and mentally."
Ryu is hoping Kim will get in some action early in the tournament against the weak Thai team, so that he won't be too rusty by the time the final rolls around. Kim, on the other hand, said he isn't just looking at the Thai match as a warm-up.
"I know the hitters can help out the starter by scoring a lot of runs, but the pitcher can also help out by making quick work of the opposing hitters," Kim said. "That way, my teammates won't have to spend so much time on the field (on defense) and it will help with their concentration at the plate."
South Korea defeated the LG Twins of the KBO in a practice match Thursday by 10-3. Kim made a relief appearance in the third and gave up a solo homer.
He said giving up the long ball was "a good learning experience" and he will try not to make the same mistake at the Asian Games.
Before the first game against Thailand, Kim will have a bullpen session to try to get accustomed to the official ball, Mizuno 200. South Korean pitchers have said they have had some trouble keeping the ball low in the strike zone.
Kim said he didn't think the Asiad ball was that much different from the ones he throws in the KBO and said the final bullpen session should be enough.
"For now, I will only concentrate on the two Asaid starts," he said. "I've pitched in playoff games and at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (where South Korea won the gold medal). I know how much work it takes to win in these competitions."